January was my last post? Seriously? Good lord. I mean, I’ve been busy!
So, I managed to get married to Dylan in June and obviously, that’s the biggest thing. The second biggest, is that we served a fantastic homebrew at our reception. Dylan received a gift card to a local homebrew store and used it to replenish his setup from years prior, then picked up a coffee porter ingredient kit while he was there. We bought some bottles and caps online and one night about six weeks before the wedding, began the process. We had a cool May so we got lucky that the temperature in his apartment was amiable for fermentation and racking, but before that we brewed some coffee per the recipe…
Ok, this was my first time witnessing a homebrew process so I remained quiet for the most part. I knew however, that the recipe was already way off from what I thought it should be in the first reading. They called for 96 oz. of coffee brewed with the equivalent of about 2 tablespoons of grounds. For those counting at home, that is an entire pot of coffee with enough grounds to brew about a cup, two if you like it weak. No way, man. Also, we kind of screwed up at first, to be honest, and forgot to buy really good beans. We wound up with an unopened bag of Costco roast, which brewed weak considering the recipe called for weak to begin with. Immediate tweaking was needed, but in the effort to stay true to the recipe we’d not tried before, we stuck with instructions. Dylan emailed the authors the next day and asked what the deal was. They insisted that this small amount of coffee was correct, and it would manifest in the nose more than the flavor. Well… that’s not what we want, we want something that would give Surly’s Coffee Bender a run for its money.
Dylan went to a different homebrew store here in Chicago and talked to the guys there (much more helpful, much cooler). They suggested that yes, while that is a very low amount of coffee, the flavor could be built by the use of straight up coffee beans or strong brew added during racking. We debated, he used his knowledge from previous brew experiences, and decided to wrap some beans in cheesecloth and add them to the final stage, prior to bottling. I kept getting updates to the tune of, “oh man this smells good”, “this beer is gonna be great!” etc. We kept our fingers crossed. I’ll be honest and tell you that I don’t remember if we tried it before the reception or not, I’m pretty sure we must have, but all we knew is that we had 36 bottles only and the bar (it was a DIY reception, we supplied the drinks and the caterer supplied the food and bartender) had to pour 5 oz. cups of our beer or it would run out before we even showed up after pictures around town.
The ceremony was perfect, the photos were great, everything was lovely. We were introduced, we said a quick thanks to our guests, clinked and smooched, and almost immediately my lady beer group made their ways over excited and chatty, full beers in hand. Our beers. Our label-less homebrew of which there were only 36 bottles. Erm, make that about 23 at this point, my girls are boozers. I asked if they were offered small pours, unanimously they shook their heads no. Turns out, the liquor delivery didn’t include the cups, which never made it to the final invoice along with the mead with which we intended to toast our wedding party. Ah well, that’s what it was for, right? So I or someone asked the bar to be sure to set four bottles aside: one for our caterer, one for my dear friend who is like a dad to me who also brews, one to split that evening (though I wound up with a whole one), and one to drink on our first anniversary. Otherwise, that was it. Bottles and beer, gone. Sigh. Everyone loved it, but man did they go fast.
It did turn out very well for an edited first attempt. It lacked roundness, we decided. It was more coffee than beer (not that it’s a bad thing) but the deep porter characteristic itself was a little lost. Still, it was very solid and didn’t taste at all like some of the coffee beers out there that are clearly more syrup than bean, or are more beer than coffee. It was a fairly respectable ABV for how big the flavor was, I think it came out in the low 6% range.
Fast forward three months later: We’re in a studio now and there is literally nowhere to brew, so there won’t be another attempt unless our forthcoming apartment has a quiet, undisturbed and slightly cold corner. If it does, or even a porch or anteroom, we’ll have a go at a stout before spring comes again. I’m looking forward to that one. Oatmeal? Oaked? Peanut Butter? Who’s to say.
In the meantime, we’ve talked about brewing in small spaces and all the little issues that can occur there. I’ve been diving into blogs and articles that specifically address those concerns. Check them out:
The Apartment Brewer
BYO, Homebrew Magazine
So for now, we patiently wait for Dylan to start and finish school then start his illustrious career in IT (hurrah for job placement!) and then we wait even more for our kitchen to materialize and brewing to begin again. There are no photos of the beer, I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, but our photographer did manage to get this fortuitous shot: as well as one of my beer club enjoying their (full) pours…
And just for kicks, this was our cake. Because magical animal.